Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
December 3, 2017

Trump Is Disturbed, But We Always Look Past It

Donald Trump in the Diplomatic Room at the White House, October 2, 2017. By Joshua Roberts/Reuters.

Retweeting anti-Muslim hate videos. Doubting the legitimacy of the Access Hollywood tape that he already apologized for. Rekindling the birther rumors. Further personalizing and escalating the North Korea crisis. It’s getting harder and harder to say “that’s just Trump being Trump.” He’s been acting even crazier and more deluded, the silence and enabling only amplifying the danger.

The chaotic Trump is always unsettled. He can’t abide by the everyday. Intellectually, he has an impoverished relationship with words and facts. Emotionally, he’s a cauldron. Tortured and torturing, the man is disturbed in the practical, as well as the clinical sense.

The photo above accompanied a Vanity Fair article in October, titled: “I Hate Everyone”: Trump Seethes as Advisers Fear He Is “Unraveling.” It was still another stretch in which Trump seemed to be coming unglued. The photo is particularly strange. It’s as if Trump is entering a fugue state — or being fully overwhelmed by his faulty nervous system. When you look past the endlessly fascinating eruptions and simply focus on the volcano, you can see how fractured a soul we are dealing with.

Photo: Evan Vucci/@evanvucci. Instagram caption: “#president #donaldtrump meets with The Crown Prince of Bahrain in the Oval Office of the #whitehouse.

That’s what makes this otherwise internal moment actually newsworthy. It’s that torment, that deep unhappiness that authorizes this otherwise innocuous photo AP photographer Evan Vucci chose out for his Instagram feed on Friday. Another metaphor until it isn’t, the intimation is that the president is lost in space.

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump look on during the 95th annual National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony at the Ellipse in President's Park near the White House in Washington, DC on November 30, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm).

Finally, I pulled this shot randomly from Friday’s newswire. It was taken at the National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony. The photo speaks to Trump’s furtiveness and his thoroughly pathological sensitivity to slight.

I’m not sure what is more alarming, that Trump is so disturbed, or that we keep looking past it. That is part of the madness, however. Trump has a diabolical ability to stay afloat by driving wedges and exploiting differences. He is also brilliant at using drama and hysteria to shift the focus, especially when the subject is his basic competency as the author of these maneuvers. It’s horrifying to say, but I doubt a Mueller firing or a nuclear first strike on North Korea would even blow his mad cover. In fact, the political or military hell breaking loose might cement it.

— Michael Shaw

(photo 1: Joshua Roberts/Reuters. caption: Donald Trump in the Diplomatic Room at the White House, October 2, 2017. photo 2: Evan Vucci/@evanvucci. Instagram. caption: “#president #donaldtrump meets with The Crown Prince of Bahrain in the Oval Office of the #whitehouse. photo 3: Nicholas Kamm. caption: US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump look on during the 95th annual National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony at the Ellipse in President’s Park near the White House in Washington, DC on November 30, 2017.)

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